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Hurricane Florence likely to generate E&S market losses: Fitch

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The excess and surplus lines market is poised to generate a significant direct underwriting profit this year, but substantial losses may emerge from Hurricane Florence’s likely landfall in the Carolinas on Friday, Fitch Ratings Inc. said in a report issued Thursday.

“Besides uncertainty tied to catastrophe losses, loss costs in areas such automobile bodily injury severity, medical costs and litigation settlement trends warrant close watch for unfavorable shifts that may influence future profit potential,” says Chicago-based Fitch’s report U.S. Excess and Surplus Lines Market Review, Catastrophes Mar 2017 Results.

The E&S market, which accounts for 5% of the U.S. property/casualty insurance industry, reported a 116% direct combined ratio for 2017, which was the worst the E&S industry has reported since 122% in 2001.  This compares to the prior 10-year average of 93%, and the year-end 2017 property/casualty industry result of 104%.

The report says large natural catastrophe insured losses of more than $50 billion in 2017 led to an E&S aggregate property lines direct combined ratio of 144% in 2017, compared with a 10-year average of 84%.

The direct ratio for casualty lines increased to 100% in 2017, which was an improvement from 2015 and 2016’s underwriting losses, but compared to an overall 10-year average of 96%, reflecting gradual deteriorations in pricing conditions over time, according to the report.

The report said the E&S market premium base grew 5% in 2017, led by fast-growing commercial auto lines. It said written premium volume is expected to accelerate in 2018 from premium rate increases in property and auto lines as well as some casualty segments. Expansion in overall economic activity is likely to boost several E&S-related products, including property and construction, as well, said the report.